We had two weeks of having foreign guest professors here at our lab. This meant getting up really early in the morning and working really late in the evenings (you have to attend and give presentations during the days, and since you also have to get your normal work done you have to stay one extra working day in the lab after the visitors go home). It also meant working some Saturdays, since the guests were here during the weekend and if you are in Japan for the first time, why would you not want to spend all your time having meetings, right?
We also visited a very Japanese (and very expensive) restaurant with our guests. The staff all wear kimonos, you sit on the floor (tatami mats), the food comes in tiny sizes (but the number of dishes is huge so the total volume of food is good), and the decorations are very Japanese. We had a calligraphy drawing on the wall in the room for our group that was written by one of the Japanese Nobel laureates. We also had our own private bath (though no one bathed during dinner) and our own private tea ceremony room (!).
The food was of course excellent. It did include some very Japanese things such as deep fried fish sperm, which some of our foreign guests found a bit strange.
|Our own private tea room!|
I was told by our secretary the day before the late dinner that: "Your name is on the list for tomorrow at 19:00. Did you know that?", which I did not know. Neither she nor I knew what that list meant, either, but I cancelled all my private activities for the evening and prepared to stay at work. At around 15:00 of the day in question, my boss stopped by and asked: "You can join at 19:00, right?", and since I had cancelled all previous engagement I said yes and asked what was going to happen. I was pleasantly surprised by it being dinner (and not for instance a night session of work related presentations). Though it might have been nice to be asked somewhat earlier if I had time to do work related things until midnight (since my contract tells me I only get paid until 17:00).
|Our own private bath.|
Since it was a job function, the project turned out to pay for the food. Apparently, the project can only pay for food, not for drinks, so we had to pay for our drinks ourselves. Which I was informed of the day after the dinner, when my boss came to my desk and said: "So do you have 2500 yen for me?" The Japanese explanation was along the lines of "You pay for what you drink", but I am guessing we actually split the bill evenly between all of us (and the non-guests paying for the guests parts too) which is common in Japan, since I only had one glass of tea and I think even in an expensive restaurant they do not charge you 2500 yen for that, haha.
|Menu printed on expensive Japanese paper|
Paying only 2500 yen for enjoying a dinner as nice as this one is of course very cheap and I was quite happy to pay, but I was a bit surprised that no one told me about having to pay in advance. Perhaps they generally tell you that when they invite you/ask you if you have time to come, and since I was never asked that either this information never reached me?
|Trout with miso|
|Beef steak (Japanese size)|
|Deep fried fish sperm|
|Crab eggs on rice|